Jimmy Dimora trial: Judge's comment brings laughter

5:43 PM, Feb 15, 2012   |    comments
  • Photo: Federal Bar Association
  • Sketch: Bob Novak
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AKRON -- A sometimes tedious cross-examination of Frank Russo was broken up by a roar of laughter in the courtroom Wednesday.  

Russo was being questioned by Bill Whitaker, one of Jimmy Dimora's defense attorneys. Some of Russo's answers were long, almost rambling, and Whitaker had to cut him off a few times.

The interplay became so engaging that at one point, after a brief sidebar conference, Judge Sara Lioi said, "Mr. Russo, you can continue the cross-examination."

The courtroom burst into laughter, as did the judge, who corrected her mistake and invited Whitaker to continue the questioning.

Russo hesitated at times to respond to Whitaker's questions, but after numerous objections and sidebar conferences with the judge, Russo answered.

As he did under direct examination by prosecutors on Tuesday, Russo again was lively and engaging on the witness stand, often looking at the jury as he described his own misdeeds while answering Whitaker's questions.

Whitaker asked Russo about the circumstances of Dimora being the winner bidder at a 2008 charity auction for a framed football jersey from Beanie Wells, former star running back for The Ohio State University.

"If you know Jimmy, you know he's not going to spend $3,600 or $3,700 on a picture," Russo testified. Dimora was later reimbursed for the money by Bill Neiheiser, owner of Reliance Electrical. Neiheiser also admitted to doing free work at Dimora's house and pleaded guilty.

Neiheiser was trying to win a contract for the new Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center at the time. He did not get the contract.

Whitaker asked Russo, who was at the auction, if alcohol could have played a factor in Dimora's purchase, and in Neiheiser's repeatedly "nudging" Dimora to up his bid.

As Russo continued to go on about not drinking himself at the event, and about Lori Dimora's displeasure over her husband's spending on the jersey, Whitaker interrupted, "Are you done? I thought my question was a little simpler."

"Did Bill Neiheiser repeatedly nudge Mr. Dimora?"

"Yes," Russo simply answered.

"Did alcohol speed up the process that would make it more likely people would bid for a picture on the wall?" Whitaker continued.

Russo acknowledged that it could have, and that he never knew Dimora to spend more than $100 on anything.


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